Tuesday, September 15, 2009

From Encyclopedia To Pornography

by LaTosha Parker

Coming from North Carolina, I've become accustomed to questioning the actions and intentions of some people if I feel I'm being marginalized because of my race (or gender). With that said, I take that attitude from the states and magnify it by 100 here. Racism (and sexism) is in my face EVERYDAY! Its just the way things are here in South Africa, rural and urban.

On a recent Sunday morning, I spent time at a used book stand. Cheap used books are my thing, so I took my time looking through them. After about 20 minutes, I ended up with three novels. One is about an ancient Christian relic stolen during WWII and the modern day recovery of the item. Another involves a murder-mystery during the Medieval Period in the town of Cambridge, England. And the third is an Anne Rice vampire novel (enough said). All three are decent sized. Between 300 to 400 pages (give or take), so nothing I plan to read in its entirety on a 30 minute taxi ride.

As I was paying for the books, one of the owners commented on how much I'm going to enjoy the stolen Christian relic novel. He really liked it and found it to be a good read. The man was very polite, white, and kind of hippy-ish. After saying such positive things about one of the books, he said, "If you like these, then you'll probably enjoy a couple other books I have." So, now I'm intrigued and I follow him over to another table.

He hands me two "thin" paperback books with black female characters on the front. The women are tall, shapely in the butt, small thin waists, long braids, and wear tight clothing. The owner proceeds to tell me that he knows the two black South Africa female authors who wrote the books. They even personally signed his copies. "I figured you might be interested in these books, because...well...you know...," he said. I cut him off with a polite smile so he didn't have to try to finish the sentence.

Since he was so polite, and in all honesty meant well, I decided to indulge him and read the book summaries on the back. Both books revolved around the "Angry Black Women" themes of baby-daddy-drama, sex issues, and balancing work with it all. Both leading women in the books were single with children. One book used "slutty" to describe the intentions of the main character.

In the spirit of forgiveness and tolerance, I guess I should commend the white owner of the used book store for at least making an effort to bridge a gap by even suggesting a book for me...

...Or maybe I should be absolutely and unconditionally insulted by the fact that his attempt to bridge a gap involved belittling my intelligence and suggesting I'd prefer dime books about sex and baby-daddy-drama (maybe because the author is black) over a good long read about murder taking place in a kingdom during the Middle Ages of England, or armed forces trying to steal back a symbolically powerful Christian artifact during WWII?

The owner knows nothing about me or my background. I'm a history teacher. I studied Modern European, American, Classical, and Black American history for four years at university and taught United States History, World History, and World Religions for two. By default, that makes me a nerd, which I know and own. I like long boring books and movies that most of my friends would never read or sit through with me. That's part of the isolation that comes along with being a nerd.


I wonder what the white owner saw when he looked at me spending that time at his book stand that one Sunday morning. Obviously something that lead him to believe I prefer books about raunchy sex, unhealthy relationships, and single-motherhood...

You know how I felt? Its as if I walked in there to buy an encyclopedia, but the owner felt I might like his latest pornographic novel since I had something in common with the characters and authors. You know...being black an all...

No comments: